Kästner, Erich

(1899-1974)
   writer; among the Republic's popular humorists. Born into lower-middle-class circumstances in Dresden (his father was a saddlemaker and his mother a seamstress), he became a soldier in 1917 but was released early the next year with a heart disorder. After working briefly in a bank, he became an editor with the Neue Leipziger Zeitung. Meanwhile, stud-ies in German language and literature led to a doctorate in 1925. When the newspaper* fired him in 1927 for publishing an erotic poem, he moved to Ber-lin* and launched a freelance career. Kastner belonged to a small circle of liberal, middle-class intellectuals who, while skeptical of the Republic, were decidedly democratic. Publishing prose and poetry in rapid succession, he became a celebrated writer for Die Welt-buhne.* His verse, a collection of which was published in 1928 as Herz auf Taille, exhibits the brisk and mocking tone that marked satire in the 1920s. Subtly combining sarcasm and compassion, his poetry targeted militarism, social injustice, political reaction, and the double standards and narrow-mindedness of the middle class. He was also esteemed for witty novels and children's books (e.g., Larm in Spiegel, Emil und die Detektiv, and Das fliegende Klassenzimmer). His unusually pessimistic Fabian (1931) exposed the collapse of traditional mo-rality under the pressure of life in modern cities.
   Although his work was burned in May 1933, and the NSDAP prohibited him from writing, Kastner was among the few Weltbuhne writers to remain in Ger-many. Writing innocuous filmscripts, he secretly sustained his prolific output, smuggling manuscripts out of Germany to await publication at a later date. After the war he was both an editor for Neue Zeitung and a freelance writer.
   REFERENCES:Benz and Graml, Biographisches Lexikon;Deak, Weimar Germany's Left-Wing Intellectuals; Garland and Garland, Oxford Companion to German Literature;Kastner, When I Was a Little Boy.

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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